Baddeley Brothers Book: 7 Highlights for Fans of Print and Paper

Baddeley Brothers Book: 7 Highlights for Fans of Print and Paper

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“Everyone loves a piece of paper, they always have done”

Fans of type and printing don’t need much convincing of the allure of paper, but the beautiful Baddeley Brothers book may convert even the most digitally devoted. With text by The Gentle Author of Spitalfields Life fame, the clothbound hardback doesn’t just celebrate Britain’s design heritage, but makes a case for it enduring.

Released in late 2015, the Baddeley Brothers book follows the development and evolution of the family business of specialist printers and envelope makers over the span of 200 years.

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Starting in the early 19th century in Clerkenwell as engravers of printing plates, the Baddeley Brothers moved premises multiple times and adapted with the times, responding to customer demand and changes in technology, whilst preserving specialist skills. The business, now in Hackney, East London, just off Mare Street, continues to be family-owned.

Here are my picks of 7 highlights from the Baddeley Brothers book:

1. Printing samples designed by David Pearson

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Showing off the “bravura techniques” of the specialist printers, the Baddeley Brothers book includes samples by designer and typographer David Pearson, boasting sumptuous foil-stamping, engraving, embossing, debossing and the like.

2. Archival images of old London

Baddely Brothers stand at IPEX (International Print Exhibition), 1958
Baddeley Brothers stand at IPEX (International Print Exhibition), 1958

Amongst archival photos of the Baddeley Brothers team are illustrations like an engraving of Ray Street in Clerkenwell, c. 1820, and a wonderful photo of a 1922 traffic jam of open-top double-decker buses in Central London.

3. Envelope Studies

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Be still, our paper-loving hearts! The book is supplemented by two lovely charts: The Anatomy of an Envelope and Styles of Envelopes. I want to find all the styles and pin them to a wall like a butterfly collection.

4. Three words: Postage stamp perforator!

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More wonderful geekery comes in the form of descriptions and illustrations of specialist machines like hand die-stamping presses and specialist skills like copperplate engraving and edge-gilding of cards.

5. Lovely illustrations

Illustration of Gary Cline setting up the envelope machine
Charming drawings by Lucinda Rogers illustrate Baddeley Brothers staff in action, like this one of “Gary Cline setting up the envelope machine.”

The book also includes a map by Adam Dant showing the locations of the different print works.

6. The Clerkenwell Connection

The first Baddeley to make his fortune in London, John Rock Baddeley, settled in the early 1800s at 27 Seward Street in Clerkenwell, “positioned within proximity of the jewellery trade in Hatton Garden yet in the very midst of the clockmaking and printing industry which defined Clerkenwell at that time.”

Future locations included 63 Compton Street and a factory on Moor Lane that was sadly completely destroyed by war bombings in 1940.

Type designer David Pearson, who designed the tipped-in samples, is also based in Clerkenwell.

7. A printing and paper glossary

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Discover the meaning of a Bastard Title and a Dandy Roll in the delightful glossary of printing and paper terminology. One of my favourites is a Hickey: “a ‘kiss’ mark or ‘lovebite,’ meaning a printing defect caused by debris that produces either a blank spot or an unwanted mark on the sheet.”


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The book concludes with a salute to “the many engravers, die sinkers, envelope makers and other talented people with whom we have had the privilege to collaborate over the last two hundred years.”

If you’re a fan of paper and print, do consider treating yourself to this beautiful book that’s a worthy tribute to the specialist printers of yesterday and today.